Even as news hit that the Powerball jackpot winner is in for a $2.4 billion payout, NASA is wagering just more than twice that amount that its Artemis I mission spacecraft (valued at $4.1 billion) will remain safe on its launch pad from now-subtropical storm Nicole. The agency announced, “Based on current forecast data [as of Monday], managers have determined the Space Launch System rocket and Orion will remain at Launch Pad 39B.”

But forecasts for Nicole’s landfall on Florida’s east coast have changed, indicating potentially hurricane-strength winds, and more risk associated with leaving the rocket exposed. According to a Tuesday (Nov. 8) article on the Ars Technica website, in anticipation of September’s Hurricane Ian landfall, NASA chose to shelter the rocket, the Orion spacecraft, and the mobile launch tower within the Vehicle Assembly Building. “At the time,” the website reported, “according to the National Hurricane Center, there was just a 6 percent chance of hurricane-force sustained winds (64 knots or greater) at Kennedy Space Center.” The assembly can withstand gusts of up to 74.1 knots, according to chief designer John Blevins.

In addition to the time factor (it normally takes two days to fully prepare the rocket assembly for movement), another intriguing reason for the decision could be that moving it back and forth could be more risky than leaving it outside in the storm. According to Ars Technica, “When it computes risk factors for the Artemis I launch vehicle, NASA has a certain budget for rollouts. The rocket has now been out to the pad on four separate occasions since this spring. While NASA has not confirmed this, according to a source, NASA has just one remaining roll in its budget.”

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